Park’d at the Computer

I started this piece a few nights ago when my body wasn’t cooperating. I got most of it done that night, but didn’t get a chance to do the final edits until this morning.

I’m sitting here at the computer writing this because I’m not able to help with the chores right now. It’s not that I don’t want to. My body is currently slow and awkward. Because we went on a longish walk this afternoon, my feet hurt. I’m very quick to tire. My walk now is a shuffle/lurch. When my symptoms are bad, as they are now, I say that I’m a bit “Parky”.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of my “Parky” down time at the computer learning how to use Photoshop. I figured if I was going to be immobilized fairly regularly, I might as well do something productive with the time. Particularly this time of year when it’s not warm enough out to go for a bike ride (yep, I can ride a bike while “Parky”). So over the past couple of years, I’ve taken a few free online courses offered by Adobe, watched some YouTube Videos, and simply poked around with the software a lot. At this point, I’ve become quite proficient at using Photoshop*.

Originally, I don’t think I really knew exactly what I wanted to use Photoshop for. I think I just liked the idea of being able to use it to be creative because being creative seemed to be good for my Parkinson’s symptoms. Happily, I soon discovered that Photoshop is an excellent program for post processing photographs. Since my wife is into photography as a hobby it turned out to be great that I learned Photoshop. She took pictures, and I helped post-process them. I eventually also started taking pictures as well. I started with portraits. Then, I got interested in night-time photography.

My interest in night photography, including Astrophotography was first piqued when my wife and I took a night photography trip to “Big Meadows”, about a 2 hour drive into the Shenandoah Mountains. We got some great shots of the milky way that night and had a great time. It was so peaceful and the night sky was beautiful. Since that time, I’ve been able to get some good shots of the Andromeda Galaxy the Pleiades Star Cluster, and other interesting deep sky objects. I enjoy taking night pictures because of how peaceful and quiet the experience of taking night photographs can be. Plus, I tend to have trouble sleeping at times and it’s something I can enjoy doing when I just can’t get to (or stay) asleep.

I’ve learned that, In the era of digital photography, it is a necessity to post-process your pictures. Most photos have at least small problems that need to be fixed. The balance of colors may need to be tweaked, saturation can be off a little. The eye tends to like contrast, so contrast often needs to be boosted. In fact, most pictures out of a DSLR camera simply look flat. The reality is that to make a photograph really “pop”, it usually needs to be “massaged”. This is especially true with Astrophotography. The picture below left shows the image I got after stacking 12 pictures (each with 2 minute exposure). The picture below right shows the same image after processing in Photoshop. The fine details were always in the original picture on the left, but I used Photoshop to bring them out.

In a daytime example, the original picture taken recently at Great Falls below left, looks kinda okay. After processing in Photoshop, the image below right looks more interesting.

I used to think that post processing photographs was “cheating”. But my opinion has changed on that. Photography can certainly be used to accurately document what is (or was). But using image editing software to make an image more interesting is more of an art. Photography used this way is simply more fun!

But I guess my overall message here would be this: if you’re forced to sit it out a bit due to disability, injury, or otherwise, you might as well put that extra time into doing something you enjoy. In my case, my Parky down time isn’t really something I dread as I used to. I’m pretty content to Park-out at the computer and fiddle with pictures in Photoshop, or plan out my next Astrophotography target. Reading, blogging, designing things in Sketchup, and playing the occasional computer game, are other activities that I can enjoy when my body isn’t cooperating.**

Finally, If you’re looking for a hobby, I recommend giving Photography and photo-editing a try. For me it’s been a relaxing and fun creative outlet. Feel free to reach out if you have questions about how to get started!

*I’m proficient, not an expert. Photoshop is an extensive program. There’s still a lot I can learn.

**A word of caution. While it’s good to make the best of your down-time, don’t forget to exercise! Movement is still is the best medicine. I always make time for exercise and generally move as much as possible.

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